Is it just me….or is there a culture of silence around women’s experiences? I don’t think it is just me. For some reason I feel that the majority of us learned along the way that we should keep quiet about the things that we are going through. Whether it is because we are supposed to be “super-woman-strong”, we don’t want other people to know how we feel because we are afraid of being judged, it is society’s expectation placed on us or if taking it all in stride is just part of the “good girl story” where we are always supposed to be nice? Either way, I have spent my whole life breaking the silence of things that so many of us women keep to ourselves. I have spent years working with young girls to help them do the same. To share with each other…to be vulnerable… to let people in and open up.
With relational aggression and bullying being such a part of our world and the media these days…I don’t believe every young girl who is mean to other girls is doing so because she is not a good person or she is just mean spirited. I believe that the world has not always provided her with constructive ways to openly express herself and her feelings and therefore with a need to get out these emotions bubbling up inside she opts for the more destructive means available to her. And I believe this carries over into womanhood. Silence. Silence. Silence. Be Nice. Don’t hurt other people’s feelings. Put other people’s needs before yourself. All messages that girls learn very early on.
I believe that when we suffer alone (or even celebrate alone) we create a story in our heads that we are the only person in the world thinking and feeling this way. We build a wall of isolation and pretty soon we are convinced we are all alone. We miss out on valuable sharing of experiences and feelings that can help us get through a difficult time. We also miss out on valuable educational opportunities for ourselves and others. Women are relational beings…am I right? Our psychological health and well-being depends somewhat on the state of our relationship and connection to others.
So when I was young and was sexually assaulted…I talked about it. Out loud. I told people. It made some people uncomfortable. But the majority of women benefitted from my openness…and to this day many women who have had that experience or something similar have opened up to me about it even when they have never told another person because they knew it was safe. And it always helped. (First time I have spoken about this in a public forum… super scary because of its extremely personal nature).
Fast-forward several years and when an unplanned pregnancy took me by surprise and I was forced to examine my options… I contemplated an abortion. I shared my thoughts and feelings with other women. Again the same thing happened. An unburdening of women’s souls from a secret they had been keeping for so long and appreciating the space to speak. (First time I have taken the step to speak about this in a public forum… super scary for fear of judgment)
Of course these are extreme examples used to make a point…but it occurs every day. The way we feel about our bodies, our weight, our career, how fulfilled we feel in our lives, the arguments and difficulties we have with our significant others. I remember the first time I had a conversation with some of my friends when I was newly married about the annoying habits I discovered living with my husband…and they ALL had similar stories and we laughed and bonded and walked away feeling a little it better that we were not the only ones going through it.
So as I have reached another new stage in my life. This stage is the “starting-a-family” stage. Being 35, it comes with biological complications that I may not have had if I started my family at 25. This actually has taught me the most about silence (at least for my generation). Of course you can learn anything from the internet these days so even in a culture of silence around being pregnant and conforming to the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” of the first trimester of pregnancy you can still find answers to your questions anonymously. Or maybe you can share with a few people you trust and get some reassurance on things. But I think of my grandmother who told me the first time she felt a child move inside of her she was scared to death because she thought she literally was possessed by the devil and the devil was inside of her. SO I guess we have come a long way since then….but…. why do we still automatically fall in line with the hush hush… don’t talk about it until you are out of the danger zone?
Today I am breaking the silence! I am pregnant! 7 weeks along and I can’t not talk about it anymore because I am curious, worried, excited and bubbling over with things I want to talk about. Also I am sick sick sick sick sick. I had a trip to the ER this weekend (everything is ok for now) and am now on bed rest. I am not waiting until 12 weeks to share. I am happy and excited and hopeful and scared out of my mind!!!!
This is my third pregnancy. I have no children. I have had 2 miscarriages. I have been through hell and back and still haven’t been through as much as some women I know. I conformed during my first pregnancy and barely told anybody. And when the miscarriage happened I was reeling. I had to reach out to my support group of women in my life. And then I just had the bad news to share. But their messages and talks and words and love helped me get through it. And again… I rediscovered how many women had gone through similar things and how important and healing it is to talk.
And what I can say is… DAMN… this time in my life is probably when I have needed the love and reassurance and shared stories from the women the most. It is some rough and tough stuff. It is scary and beautiful and weird and emotional and absolutely crazy and unique. There is nothing I have ever experienced that comes close to it. And all of you who know me…I am a talker… I don’t play by the rules of silence. Why did I during my first pregnancy? Because of the response I got from people almost every single time I told someone! Nobody was shy about telling me I shouldn’t be sharing or questioning me on why would I talk about it so early. I began to feel like I was doing a bad thing and my joy was being dimmed every time I had to defend my choice to speak. I wanted to make people feel better because they weren’t just being jerks about it… it is also what they have learned and it was an automatic response. SO I fell back into silence. But I re-learned a valuable lesson:
When I don’t follow my heart because of outside influences, expectations or pressure, nothing good comes of it. When I do follow my heart, it may be tough at first but it always brings peace.
We preach it all the time at Live. Breathe. Grow. BE YOUR OWN GURU. Make your own rules based on what feels right for you. I am not in any way suggesting that it is the “right” thing for every woman to do what I did and share how I share. It is simply right for me. If an expectation or pressure of silence or anything else is keeping you from living what is in your heart…maybe try living your truth out loud. Some people already live this way. Some need gentle reminders sometimes. But if this is foreign to you…maybe start with something small…teeny tiny. See how it feels. I bet you will feel great!
TODAY I FEEL GREAT! Thank you for reading, listening and allowing me the supportive space to tell my story!